Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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Nocturne: Trafalgar Square – Snow


Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • 'A Winter Fog' (1876, Society of French Artists). 1
  • 'Nocturne "Blue & Silver" Trafalgar Square Chelsea (Snow)' (1892, Whistler). 2
  • 'Blue & Silver Chelsea Snow' (1892, D. C. Thomson). 3
  • 'Nocturne / Trafalgar Square – Snow' (1892, Goupil). 4
  • 'Gris et Or; – nocturne, Trafalgar Square Chelsea' (1892, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris). 5
  • 'Trafalgar Square, Chelsea – snow and twilight' (1893, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts). 6
  • 'Nocturne in Blue' (1901, Glasgow Art Galleries). 7
  • 'Trafalgar Square, Chelsea' (1905, ISSPG). 8
  • 'Nocturne: Trafalgar Square – Snow' (1980, YMSM). 9

The preferred title, 'Nocturne: Trafalgar Square – Snow', is based on the 1892 title, with punctuation regularised.


                    Nocturne: Trafalgar Square – Snow, Freer Gallery of Art
Nocturne: Trafalgar Square – Snow, Freer Gallery of Art

A grey city-scape in horizontal format, showing the right hand corner of a square surrounded by three-storey buildings. There are bare branched trees in the square. In the foreground at left is the corner of a fence, with light shining on the snow behind it. There is a street lamp at right, and a glimpse, beyond the far right corner of the square, of buildings and a tower with lit windows. Lights shine faintly from buildings on the far side of the square, to left.


The scene shows not the well-known Trafalgar Square but another Trafalgar Square, which was off the Fulham Road in Chelsea, London. Curry identified it as the north-west corner of the square, looking towards the New Brompton Road. 10


Musical connections were discussed in, for instance, on the former Freer Gallery of Art website, in Whistler and Music:

'This nocturne, depicting a snow-laden Trafalgar Square in Chelsea, was also in the 1892 exhibition of Whistler's work that Debussy is thought to have seen. Deeply influenced by Whistler's art and thought, Debussy once wrote about his orchestra Nocturnes (1897-99), "It's an experiment, in fact, in finding the different combinations possible inside a single color, as a painter might make a study in gray, for example." The composer's indebtedness to the visual arts is also reflected in the names he gave to many of his other works: images, sketches, estampes (prints), and scenes.' 11


1: Glasgow Herald, 25 April 1876 [more] .

2: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [4 January 1892], GUW #08214.

3: D. C. Thomson to Whistler, 8 February 1892, GUW #05682.

4: Catalogue Goupil 1892[more] (cat. no. 6).

5: Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Champ-de-Mars, Paris, 1892(cat. no. 1070).

6: 32nd Exhibition of Works of Modern Artists, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Glasgow, 1893 (cat. no. 22).

7: International Exhibition, Glasgow Art Galleries, Glasgow, 1901 (cat. no. 417).

8: Catalogue of the Memorial Exhibition, London 1905 [more] (cat. no. 33).

9: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 173).

10: Curry 1984 [more] , p. 125, plate 29.

11: 'Images: Whistler and Music: Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano', Freer/Sackler website at, deleted (accessed 2019).

Last updated: 23rd November 2020 by Margaret